Flueggea virosa ssp. melanthesoides

white currant


Flueggea virosa ssp. melanthesoides

(F.Muell.) G.L.Webster 1984

pronounced: FLOO-jee-uh vir-ROW-suh subspecies mel-an-thee-SOY-deez

(Phyllanthaceae — the phyllanthus family)


common names: white currant, snowberry

native 4Flueggea is named for John Fluegge, a German cryptogamic botanist, i.e. one who studies plants such as ferns and mosses, that have no true flowers or seeds. I have not been able to find his dates, or anything else about him. Virosa is from the Latin virosus, slimy, stinking. The best I can do for melanthesoides is that it appears to come from the Greek μελ- (mel-), black, ανθος (anthos), a flower (or anther), and –οειδες (-oides), resembling; but why the name should be given to this subspecies I cannot imagine. This genus is sometimes placed in the Euphorbiaceae family.

Flueggea virosa is a dioecious, multi-stemmed, fast-growing, bush shrub 2–3 m in height (but sometimes a spreading tree up to 4 m high) distributed throughout tropical Africa and extending through Asia to Japan and Timor. The subspecies melanthesoides occurs in New Guinea and Australia. It occurs in deciduous woodlands and on forest margins, along rivers and in rocky regions. It has naturalized in Hawaii, Taiwan, and parts of China, where it has become a problem plant. In China it is known as Chinese waterberry.

The specimens photographed are by the side of the path leading down to Picnic Bay from the Rocky Bay lookout.

The branches are usually reddish brown, and the twigs sharply angular. The foliage is usually deciduous. The leaves are green, papery, oblong, obovate or orbicular, 2 – 5 cm long, 1 – 3 cm wide, the base obtuse to cuneate, the apex rounded to acute, crowded along the branchlets. The flowers are very small, and creamy green, and the fruits are white and fleshy, 3 mm or a little more in diameter, appearing December-April.

The seeds are about 2 by 1.5 mm, a shiny chestnut brown. The flowering time is anywhere from October to January. A variety of insects such as wasps and bees pollinate the flowers. Seeds are dispersed by animals and birds, and the leaves are browsed by goats. It is also larval food for Charaxes butterflies.

Especially in Africa, the slender branches are used to make fish traps. The small fruit is sweet, and eaten by people, animals and birds when ripe. The roots and fruits are believed to be an effective snakebite remedy. Roots of the plant are also used in some African communities as contraceptives and for the treatment of sexual diseases, rheumatism, and rashes; and an infusion of the root is taken to relieve malaria. The bark is believed to provide a treatment for diarrhoea and pneumonia.

The plant is sometimes used in gardens to create a soft screening, and is ideal as a backdrop, or for a hedge or barrier. It attracts butterflies to the garden. It can be grown from seed, and is a very low-maintenance plant.
This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown).


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken 2010-2012, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 1st January 2019